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Special Group: Warriors of stealth

punjab Updated: Feb 09, 2014 00:25 IST

In the light of the current controversy surrounding its involvement in the Punjab crisis in 1984, it is necessary to understand what the Special Group or SG is all about. It is a specialised unit for conducting covert operations and training personnel for deniable actions functioning under the Directorate General of Security reporting to Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the external intelligence agency.

Set up in the early 80s, the unit is located at Chakrata in Uttarakhand and Sarsawa in Uttar Pradesh (UP). All personnel are from the army. It consists of four operational squadrons with each rotating through counter-terrorism duties on a half-yearly basis. One team is always in a state of high alert for contingencies. Squadrons consist of four troops each having a specialised role. The operational squadrons are supported by wings dealing with intelligence and planning, training and communications.

By the end of 1983, the daily deteriorating situation in Punjab necessitated a serious intervention. The Special Group was tasked to formulate a viable plan to remove terrorist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple Complex. Britain’s Special Air Service, after the Iranian Embassy siege of 1980, was the most high profile counter-terrorism force in the world. The commander of the SAS’ Counter-Revolutionary Warfare Wing travelled to India and conferred with the SG planners advising them about the best way to accomplish the task. The operation was however called off by the government.

The skills learned over the years by the SG were put to good use in the Punjab countryside against terrorists in 1988-93. Currently, the unit has displayed its operational expertise in J&K combating infiltrators from across the line of control (LOC). SG operators have also conducted successful information-gathering operations targeting overground workers and terrorist hideouts. Over the years, the Special Group has played a major role in developing tactics, procedures, weapons, equipment and know-how for other special forces.

SC to the rescue of disabled soldiers
The Supreme Court has dismissed a review petition filed before it by the Defence Ministry seeking reversal of benefits granted to soldiers disabled during war or otherwise. In its judgement dated March 31, 2011, in the case of Captain KJS Buttar versus Union of India, the court had directed that the benefits of broad-banding of disability element shall be admissible with effect from January 1, 1996, to personnel who had retired or were discharged before 1996 and that the same shall also apply to those who were released on completion of their terms of engagement or had superannuated, and not only to those who were invalided out on medical grounds.

As we have now come to expect from it, the ministry did not universally implement the decision and instead of pronouncing that it was incongruous with the laid down policies of the government, sought a review before the apex court. Does the power of the Supreme Court as an interpreter of such policy hold no water?
Holding that it had been delayed as well as pronouncing on its merits the highest court in the land has now dismissed the petition on January 21, 2014. What next? It would be too much to expect the MOD to give up without a protracted struggle. As Major Navdeep Singh, the indefatigable crusader for soldiers’ rights says, ‘Don’t expect any positive thinking on their part, and instead wait for the next round of sadism!’

(Please write in with your narratives of war and soldiering to msbajwa@gmail.com or call on 093161-35343)